21:25 GMT26 January 2020
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    It has been a month since the European Court of Justice ruled that EU countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements of the West Bank and the Golan Heights on their labels so that consumers could make "informed choices" when shopping - a move that has been met with enthusiasm by the various pro-Palestinian groups.

    As the resolution spread waves of panic among Israeli politicians who called the move discriminatory and reminiscent of the Nazi times, Noam Weisler, an Israeli farmer from the Jordan Valley - that makes up some 30 per cent of the West Bank - and a chairman of the region's agricultural committee, says the financial impact of the move has not been felt yet.

    "We feel no immediate effect on our sales," he said in a phone interview, admitting that it's a matter of time before Israeli farmers feel the losses to their pockets.

    Déjà Vu

    Israel has been in this situation before. In 2009 the UK started marking Israeli products in an attempt to let its customers make informed decisions, with Denmark and Belgium followed suit in 2013 and 2014 respectively. A major blow came in 2015 when the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of labelling Israeli produce, a decision binding the 27 member states.

    Now, however, the decision has been taken to a whole new level. "Courts are not supposed to make political decisions, but that's exactly what the European court did. It took a purely political stance, supporting the BDS and scrapping all principles of justice or fair competition," Weisler complained, adding that he felt the EU was now targeting all Israeli citizens, regardless of whether they live in settlements or not. 

    This is the reason why Weisler and many other Israeli farmers, started looking for different solutions, developing ties with other markets, including Russia.

    "90 per cent of our peppers go to Russia, which is not part of the EU. With other products, we are still largely dependent on the European market, and as such, the decision will most probably decrease our ability to market our produce," he explained. 

    In 2018, Israel's exports to Russia stood at more than $675 million with 24 per cent of those, edible products. In comparison, in the first half of 2018, Israeli exports to the EU accounted for $8.1 billion, or 33 per cent of total exports. While it is not clear the degree to which the EU engages with trade with Jewish settlements, estimates are that they only make up one per cent of the total turnover.

    A Losing Game

    Israeli farmers are not the sole losers in this situation. Palestinian workers will suffer, as well. "What BDS groups - that claim to fight for the rights of the Palestinians - fail to understand is that instead of hurting Israel, they end up hurting the Palestinians they represent, simply because we employ Palestinian workers," explained Weisler.

    According to the Palestinian Ministry of Labour, 60 per cent of the Jordan Valley workforce is employed in agriculture in Israeli settlements. 

    "In high season, we are talking about 15 thousand employees that support entire families. If we lose our jobs, they will too, and this will inevitably push them into a severe poverty cycle," he added. 

    We Won't Stop

    But hardships don't stop Weisler. "We fight [such discriminatory decisions] and the BDS through public diplomacy, and by explaining that the financial peace that we created here is beneficial for all. But, most importantly, we will continue to work the land and produce the best quality products, making them irresistible to consumers," he concluded.

    The EU has never recognized the West Bank and the Golan Heights, captured from Jordan and Syria respectively during the 1967 war, as part of Israel. Today, the population of the West Bank stands at 3.2 million people - the majority of which are Palestinians. The situation in the Golan Heights is similar. Out of 40 thousand people living there, less than half are Jewish.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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